Social manners

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I’ve been invited onto the friends lists on Orkut and LinkedIn by several people that I don’t really know. I know who they are, but I wouldn’t exactly call them my friends. Some have commented on my blog once or twice, some I’ve commented on. A couple are people who live near me. I didn’t recognize most of their names — I had to look at their Web sites in order to figure out who they were.

Part of me feels awkward when rejecting these invitations, but I think I should know you before I call you my friend. Random, one-tme interactions do not make friendships. Once at LAX I stood in the security line behind Richard Belzer and said a few words to him. But that doesn’t make us friends.

Social software sites make it easier for people to make connections with others. This reduction in friction encourages people to make connections to everyone — even those to which they have only a tennuous relationship.

In the real world, people have an innate sense of propriety as to whom to extend invitations for social interactions. You don’t invite casual acquaintences to your wedding or complete strangers to your company picnic. Social software has sprung up faster than etiquette can develop. There are no manners for how to invite people into your network. Similarly there are no rules for how to politely decline an invitation.

Like with any other new system, rules will begin to emerge that govern the polite use of social networks.

February 1, 2004 7:41 PM

While on Ryze (and definitely pre-orkut) I lamented exactly the same situation, blogging an entry entitled: "A 'Friend'ly Misunderstanding" -- Basically said the same thing you did, but didn't get to the point as quickly :D

Justin Hitt
February 1, 2004 11:48 PM

Thank you for bringing up a very important issue about social networking and building business relationships in general. While software software in neat, I'm encouraging my clients to focus on those relationships they already have. Strength connections with people you already know, it's a lot less work. It seems like a lot of these invitations are well meaning, but offer little or no value to the other person. It feels bad to turn new invitations down, but I can't please everyone. Social networking is feeling like high school all over again. Sincerely, Justin Hitt Consultant, Author & Speaker

February 2, 2004 3:23 AM

What Orkut misses (and that sixdegrees and planetall had in their time) is a categorization of friends versus acquaintances versus colleagues versus "have chatted on the net in the past"-type relationships... I too feel awkward receiving invites from people I've never talked to, much less met in real life. In inviting people to join / link up with me at orkut, I've stuck to inviting only people I know (i.e. have met / am friends with in real life) or a few bloggers I've had multiple instant messenger conversations with in the past...

Matt Burris
February 2, 2004 10:54 AM

Then there's the issue of people who would like to make a new friend. Do you use these social relationship sites for that? Is it wrong for someone who would like to have a new friend, someone they look up to or share the same interests? You can never have too many friends in this world. Like someone above mentioned, perhaps there should be categorizations for different types of relationships; new friends, old friends, co-worker, real-life friend, online friend, and so on.

Adam Kalsey
February 2, 2004 11:32 AM

Then there's a question that social networks need to answer. Does the addition of a person to your friends list imply current status or desired status? Do I add people to my network that are my friends or that I want to have as friends? Both Orkut and Linkedin seem to be promoting current status. If you find someone you would like to know, you can use the tools they provide to make contact by email and other off-site means. Then once you have begun a relationship, you add them to your list of friends.

February 2, 2004 1:30 PM

Adam, I agree on what you say, but one rebel thought about this: Orkut offers me the possibility of connecting to people that, right now, have incredible barriers: assistants, delete list, etc., and basically, once I see them in the list, they are there for me to talk! Granted, who-are-you syndrome attacks and we lose the possibility of interaction, but as long as we are not competing with ten thousand others, there is going to be the temptation of the easy route! That is inherent in the way we perceive online communications, and how we interact with others via blogs. I would certainly like a finer graduation of acquaintance, from beer buddies to greeting strangers, but until then, what do we do?

February 5, 2004 2:28 PM

Adam, sent a courtesy invitation to you from Orkut. We had no idea that anyone was taking Orkut seriously. You look friendly, were the only off-site link we had in the Mandarin template and it didn't look like you had a lot of friends. When we finally accepted an invitation to Orkut a few days ago there were chairs waiting and like you say, we didn't know some of them by name and had to look at the site. Apparently, some folks are taking this Orkut thing serious. That never occurred to us. All of the invitations we sent to existing Orkut members (except the one to you) were accepted and we will politely continue to accept invitations from others. We will not send more invitations knowing now that some percieve Orkut as a serious social network. Thank you for sharing your perception of Orkut. We removed you from our Orkut list and from our Web site and apologize for any confusion.

Adam Kalsey
February 6, 2004 10:25 AM

Meg, It's not you, it's me. I've started ignoring pretty much any Orkut invite. I haven't logged into the site in a week. It's just not useful to me, so I've decided not to waste any more time with it. I emptied my profile, but left my contact information in case someone really wants to get a hold of me. I'll keep my account in case it becomes useful at a later date, but I'm just not enthralled with the general concept.

Adam Lasnik
February 6, 2004 1:02 PM

Matt wrote: > You can never have too many friends in this world. I respectfully disagree. Friendships require time and energy. All of us have a limited amount of each. It may be nice to have an unlimited number of ACQUAINTANCES, but friends? Heck, I can hardly be a good friend to the friends I have now. I sometimes forget birthdays, don't always have the time to help someone move, and so on. As with everything in life, there is a reasonable and real limit to the number of friendships one can successfully maintain. And as for the current or wished-for differentiation in friend status; I wish orkut would separate the FANS from FRIENDS designations... allowing anyone to tag anyone else with a FAN mark ("I like this person!" or "I want to get to know this person"), but use the FRIEND mark (or, hopefully, future variations thereof) to delineate actual, existing friendships. That, to me, would be a hell of a lot more useful. As it stands now, the whole concept of connectedness is a farce with most online networking services and even Orkut to some degree. If I want to write Fred to offer him something or ask for something, I can't reliably use his listed "friendship" with one of my friends as an indicator, because they may just have added each other willy-nilly. And that, IMHO, is a shame -- both socially and businesswise.

Sue Duris
February 12, 2004 2:48 PM

I enjoyed your post on the social networking sites and networking in general above. Networking should imply developing relationships. I will say that I was invited to join Ryze long ago and developed some good relationships while I have been there. But just because someone sends you a note doesn't make them a friend. Ryze doesn't have a breakout for friends, acquaintances, and the like. I usually add someone as a friend after a relationship is developed. I think social networking sites are like networking, in general -- you get what you put into it. One thing I do like about Ryze is it does combine business and social networking aspects.

March 24, 2005 11:13 AM

Hi Adam: I find it very interesting that you have created this space to post your own thoughts and that strangers (like me), can come and add their own... I consider a level up to the discussion is: Technology is almost forcing people to get rid of their boundaries. As far as I am concerned, social manners were created to support boundaries (individual or collective). People who were so ambitious to implement their technological "advancements" forgot to think of the consequences so that proper processes could be created to properly manage the interaction. As much as I appreciate technology I still prefer to receive invitations face to face and few people are in the "Friend" category of my address book. Cheers!

June 12, 2005 9:24 AM

Most of our users only invite people they know and trust, but there is a small (fewer than 0.1%) , but very active group who use LinkedIn's invitation mechanism to reach out to people they want to get to know instead of the intended way, which is to connect ONLY with people you already know and trust. To give users complete control over their connections, every connection has to be approved by you, so you can't become connected with someone unless you agree to accept the invitation. And, as we emphasize in the note with which we deliver each invitation, we encourage users to only accept invitations from professionals they know and are willing to recommend to their own trusted business contacts. While invitations from people you don't know well are almost always well-meaning (basically an offer to introduce you to people they know), we recommend against accepting them since people you don't know well really can't do meaningful introductions for you and they may not know who to introduce to you and who to screen out. In addition to "accept" and "decline", we offer three additional options. "Decide later" is like a gentle brush off (no message is sent to the inviter, and you can later accept if your relationship gets to a point where you feel comfortable). If someone invites you and they are truly a stranger, feel free to use the "Report" option, so we can notify the inviter on your behalf that they are violating our user agreement and can restrict their account (or eventually delete their account from LinkedIn altogether--they tend to mend their ways quickly though since they care about their presence on LinkedIn a great deal). Finally, if you only want to get invitations from people you know well, you can limit incoming invitations to just those who come from people you keep in your address book at this "contact settings" screen: You can use this feature even if you have nobody in your address book--then you won't receive invitations from anybody anymore (BTW, you also have this option if you are not even registered with LinkedIn). Or you can just specify in your settings the 10 people from which you'd be willing to entertain invitations. You're in full control, and this option (like the others) is listed on the page where you act on your invitation. -Konstantin Co-founder, LinkedIn

Atul Kumar
June 13, 2005 3:21 AM

I would second what Konstantine has to say. For one, the beauty of Linkedin is that it is "me" who is in cotrol of who, how gets linked to me. Also just like in real world people have different NQs ( Networking Qutotient) on net. Some people will like to explore newer friends & people and others will like to keep a more private space. Linkedin allows us as highlighted above to choose how and with whom we want to connect. I am one of the guys who would prefer to connect to a wide range of people who share my interests and have had unknown people contact me but then as you interact trust builds on and have been willing to connect or refer and it has been wonderful experience so far. However there was one feedback from someone where our ability to rate the level of familiarity with people connected might help. Just like endorsements use words, we shoud have a rating based endorsement for all of our contacts. Konstatntine hope you are listening.

DiMitri Hage
July 1, 2005 2:55 PM

Hi Adam, I tend to agree with some of your observations about social networks in general but you'll have to distinguish between the business networks such as LinkedIn and the other social networks. Also, you'll have to use LinkedIn to really appreciate what LinkedIn can provide you, - I sent you an invite to join my professional network and I attached in a separate email a note and a resume/bio-. I'm hoping that you'll accept and start using it, then you may post your true observations. I'm considered a power user, but I use LinkedIn differently. I never uploaded a database, never posted my email address on my profile, I reject many invites, I hardly ever send a request for an introduction. Most of my network is an extension and another tool for conducting business as a corporate bizdev professional in the high-tech industry. I simply use linkedin as an additional research tool when I'm searching individuals and companies etc. I've made many business contacts and friends all over... You might want to give LinkedIn a try. Regards, DiMitri LinkedIn Profile:

May 13, 2008 7:28 AM

hi i would like to know if you boss is always leaving you notes and your desk that say "you did that you did this" isn't using the word "you " like that accusatory and degrading? i would shure like to set her straight thanks

This discussion has been closed.

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